Wednesday, June 29

Man City, big winners as Liverpool, hit by COVID, slip into Tottenham thriller



Was this the day the tide turned in the Premier League title race?

While Manchester City enjoyed a Sunday stroll in Tyneside, Chelsea stuttered in the West Midlands and Liverpool took off after a chaotic clash in North London.

What an afternoon it was at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Breathless, unforgiving, dramatic, and controversial. English football at its finest, some would say.

In the end, Jurgen Klopp’s team can view their 2-2 draw as one point won rather than two lost. They certainly had to dig into those energy reserves, that “monster” mentality to make sure they got away with some of the loot.

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Very exhausted, without all of their first-choice midfield and with a 19-year-old making his first league start in the anchor role, the Reds played their luck at times and cursed their luck at others. There won’t have been many unchewed nails in the end, that’s for sure.

They finished with 10 men, Andy Robertson showing a direct red card for lashing out at Emerson Royal just eight minutes after giving his team the lead at 2-1. However, you may wonder how Harry Kane escaped the same punishment for a savage lunge on Robertson in the first half.

Captain’s privileges of England, perhaps?

Klopp also felt, with some justification, that his team should have had a penalty when Royal stormed Diogo Jota before halftime. There’s no VAR verification for that, which felt strange to say the least. It seemed cheeky.

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Jota had topped Liverpool’s level, his 10th goal of the season in the league canceled Kane’s well-crafted first goal. Tottenham caused the visitors tons of trouble with their counterattacks, and Kane, Son Heung-min and Dele Alli could have extended the lead before Liverpool, as they always do, counterattack.

When Robertson scored, reacting well with a header on a Trent Alexander-Arnold volley cross from close range, there was 21 minutes remaining and a great victory in sight.

But then Alisson Becker, who made a series of outstanding saves, missed his challenge when he slipped to the feet of Son, who gleefully tied in an empty net.

Then came Robertson’s moment of madness, the red card awarded after referee Paul Tierney was advised to check his field monitor. There are no real complaints there, other than the decisions that preceded it. Tierney and his team had an afternoon to forget.

Liverpool held the tie, although they could have stolen the victory when Kostas Tsimikas failed to select Mo Salah in injury time. Salah’s streak of scoring or assisting in 15 straight Premier League games is over, by the way. The Egyptian endured a rare frustrating afternoon.

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And so Liverpool head to Christmas three points behind City, and having seen their considerable advantage in goal difference disappear in the space of a week.

More concerning, however, is the impact of the coronavirus on Klopp’s team heading into the holiday period. Thiago Alcantara joined Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and Curtis Jones in positive tests over the weekend, while Jordan Henderson was sent home from London with a cold (the Reds captain returned a negative test Sunday).

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Klopp said Liverpool wanted to play, and the club has been transparent in its communications about positive Covid tests, but with Leeds United on Boxing Day followed by Leicester absent on December 28, and then the prospect of a trip to Chelsea at the beginning of the New Year, surely things are only going to get worse before they get better.

Whether the Premier League will act remains to be seen (there is a club meeting scheduled for Monday, in which a “firewall” is sure to be high on the agenda), but for now one thing is for sure.

The big winners this weekend play in light blue and come from the Etihad Stadium.




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